Continuing our wine journey in the midst of local and global crises
California singed by roaring fires
This wine blog is a celebration of all the people who bring us delectable wine – from the grape pickers to the winemakers. In the process of seeing them at work, mostly in California, I have understood and learned to respect the complexities of wine and the intricacies of their labor.
Yet now, it is hard to celebrate this wonder of Californian ingenuity when wildfires have hungrily lapped the lives and bread and butter of so many people. It is not some winery out in the wilderness – an intellectual understanding — but our neighbors. Our smoky skies are not an inconvenience but a grim sign of the devastation wrought on the lives of those who have worked tirelessly toward a goal.
Continuing with Italian Wines.
And then there’s Covid. Hard as it for us to get around, it is even harder to find Italian wines. What was available a mere three months ago is gone from the shelves of little Italian wine stops, with no date for replenishment.
With so little available, I grouped two areas of northern Italy – Lombardy and Trentino-Alto Adige. See wine map of Italy.
Lombardy, or Lombardia in Italian, lies to the south of Switzerland and borders Piedmont. Expectedly, it grows many of the same grapes as Piedmont, such as Barbera and Nebbiolo, which is known as Chiavennasca in Lombardy. In addition, it is also known for its Croatina, Pinot Nero or Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Among the white wines, its Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Grigio are well known.
Availability for tasting was limited to two:
Rosesroses, Rosato Alto Mincio, 2018. Indicazione GeograficaTipica. Otella. Rosato is rosé in Italian, and Alto Mincio is the upper Mincio river. We have had an unusually hot spring and summer this year in California with temperatures staying in the 100s for days on end. This light, fruity, low alcohol (12.5 percent) wine was wonderful for this weather.
Barbacan Azienda Agricola, 2018, Rosso di Valtellina, DOC. This is a light, earthy Nebbiolo with an ABV of 12.5 percent, very different from the aromatic, fruity Roero Nebbiolo I wrote about in my last post. Valtellina is a region in northern Lombardy. Barbacan is the producer; Azienda Agricola means the house or business of agriculture.
This northern most state of Italy shares a boundary with Austria and lies to the east of Piedmont. It is divided into the counties of Trentino and Alto Adige or Südtirol or South Tyrol. The River Adige starts in the Alps in this county and flows to the Adriatic Sea, supporting a diverse range of grapes.
Alto Adige produces mostly white wines; those were the ones we tried this hot summer.
Elena Walch Gewürztraminer 2017, Alto Adige DOC. Alcohol, 13.5 percent. This was our absolute favorite and also had the simplest label! The aroma of kevra* was amazing and unusual in a wine. Additionally, we picked up rose, with hints of sandalwood. Most exciting for someone trying to master the unfamiliar fragrance of huckleberry and black currant was finding aromas that smelled of grandma’s kitchen.
And here’s another discovery: a different bottle of the same wine can present different aromas. The second one was predominantly jasmine.
Kellereigenossenschaft St. Michael – Eppan, 2017. Weissburgunder – Pinot Bianco, Südtirol – Alto Adige – DOC, Schulthauser. Considering the ABV of 14 percent, this wine felt light. It was delicious, fruity with a light aroma – perfect on another 100-degree day. We enjoyed it with Mediterranean food.
Label deconstructed: St. Michael is the winery, part of the cooperative (genossenschaft) named Kellerei; Eppan is Südtirol’s largest wine growing municipality. Weissburgunder is Pinot Blanc in German; Schulthauser is a medieval property on whose vineyards these grapes were grown.
Pinot Grigio, 2018, from the same winery. Pale in color, citrusy, lemon zest, hint of green apple.
Franz Haas Manna, 2011, Vignetti Della Dolomiti, IGT. A blend of Riesling, Chardonnay, Traminer and Sauvignon Blanc. Since this was old for a white wine with Riesling as one of the grapes, there was no escaping the smell of petrol, not a defect but just a characteristic of older Riesling. After a bit the smell cleared to yield a floral aroma. The next day, despite the petrol, we distinguished other flavors on the palate – apricot, apple, and tropical fruit. We enjoyed this with sheep’s milk cheese, Brillat Savarin, seeded bread and Indian onion roti.
Follow this link to a wine produced by the cooperative of Terlano.
A note on labels.
For our Italian journey, I have been decoding labels so we can make sense of Italian wines on a restaurant’s wine list. For this, it is also important to understand the classification of Italian wines.
At the top of pyramid is the DOCG or Denominazione d’Origine Controllata e Garantita; next comes the DOC or Denominazione d’Origine Controllata; last, but arguably the most popular, is the IGT or Indicazione Geografica Tipica.
Although these distinctions can be more nuanced, a simple way to think of them is that the higher the classification, the more restrictions apply to wine production. You will always see a level on a bottle of Italian wine.
* a floral water used in South Asian cooking made from the flower of the Pandanus Tectorius or screwpine.
Featured picture: Shutterstock.